Sea Stories

Sea Stories

Sea Stories

I'd say the thing that most characterized my time in the Navy was that no one really knew what I did for a living. It became clear early on that no one outside the military understands it fully. (Hell, some people IN the military didn't understand it. Remember all the people that refused to honor their commitment to serve in Desert Shield/Storm? Repetetive quotes of 'I didn't join for War! Just for the education!' Please. Remember when they kept mentioning 'guns' in boot camp.....? I'm willing to bet they NEVER said, 'And for those of you that signed up for combat.....' before a lesson.) Then the different services are REALLY different. And there is almost as much difference between the submarine fleet and the rest of the Navy. And on all of my subs, most of the guys didn't really connect with the Weapons Way of doing things. In Strategic Weapons, the Missile Techs were often PROUD of the fact that they didn't grasp Fire Control's process of targeting. Or our procedures. Or even our indications. (Honestly. On most of the PLANET, if you get an alarm, it's an alarm condition. In Fire Control, there are a lot of procedures that produce an 'expected' alarm, so it isn't really an alarm. WE knew the difference....) This never changed the fact that my chain of command was heavily sprinkled with or influenced by people that could give me orders they didn't understand. I think most of my pre-submarine screening wasn't to see if i could be trusted with nukes as much as if i could be trusted to follow the right orders, and follow the wrong orders in the right manner....

So anyway, here I post some things that happened, that i heard about, that shaped or confirmed my attitudes. (I started to post my attitude, when the FBI warned me about the current hate crime laws.) Ah, well, maybe you can decode my attitude from the following.....

We were giving a tour of the submarine to a few civilians that worked on the Strategic Weapons system. They'd actually never been on a sub, despite several years with the system, so they were quite excited, asking lots of questions. We were excited too, to get a tour group asking the Non-FAQ questions, and understanding the answers.
We got to the Missile Control Center, and they were all over it. One guy kept mentioning that the simulator for the system was a lot roomier, and you could work on equipment and still move around. Finally he said, 'You know, it'd make a lot more sense if MCC was about 8 feet wider.'
I agreed, except, 'See that bulkhead? I mean, the wall? If MCC was 1 foot wider, it'd be 11 inches into the ocean.'

More evidence that we were different:
A reporter rode the sub for a few days. He interviewed the MCC watch:
Reporter: So, what kind of warheads do you have on the missiles?
Launcher: We don't talk about that, it's classified.
Rep: Okay, tell me about the food. (There were a few other soft questions, which we answered, then:)Now, can your confirm that the Mark (##) warhead is deployed on this ship?
Lchr: We WON'T talk about that, it's classified.
Rep: Okay, okay, now why did you join the Navy? (A few MORE questions to distract and lull, which we answered, then:) Now, did you say that was the Mark (##) warhead?
Lchr: Listen! That's classified. If you ask about it one more time, we're gonna call away a security violation, and break your leg!
Rep: Okay, okay, I can get this information anywhere.
Lchr: Then do so.
The fun part was watching the cameraman. We threatened (promised) violence, and he started towards the door. They guy we were gonna hit just kept talking.

In Maneuvering, the room that controls the Nuc Pwr system, they always reminded me of the BattleStar Galactica Cylons. There was an enlisted at each panel, and an officer behind them, controlling all. In MCC, we had a lot more autonomy in the day to day operation of the system. This used to really bother the Air Force or Army officers touring or inspecting, as the U.S. Navy seems to be the only force in the World that lets enlisted control as much as they do.
Once, when tied up in Cocoa Beach, junior Nuclear Power officers toured our boomer. One group included a few women. They had a lot of questions about our operation and maintenance. One Ensign kept asking and asking where the officer would be for this or that. She couldn't get her mind wrapped around the idea that our officers would give us NUCLEAR WEAPON instruction and then walk away. I'm sure she was a LOT of fun for those around her.

I do want to say that the one time we did co-ed midshipmen operations, where 30-40 college kids from the Academy and ROTC program rode the ship for a week, touring, practicing and operating as much as possible, the female middies were the most impressive. The boys watched movies, and played video games, the girls cracked books, asked questions, drove, dove and operated and helped. For people that were probably never gonna ride subs, they took the opportunity for all it was worth. Two conversations I remember clearest from that week:

A female midshipmen went thru a training missile launch, taking it slow, operated every station, and asked questions like: 'If I was your division officer, and we got that indication, what would you do, what would I do?' And she didn't take it personally when I used phrases like '...and you'd try to stay out of my way.'

A male was on the mess decks, watching a movie, and spilled his soda. He looked over the the Chief Of the Boat, and asked, 'Master Chief? Is there someone who cleans this up?'
COB said, 'Sure.' and handed him a rag. Wish I had a camera for the look on the middy's face.

In Navy Instructor School, I was the only bubblehead (submarine sailor) in the class. On the first day of class, someone rolled a grenade down the center of the classroom. I saw it, rolled out of my chair and belly crawled toward the door. The only other people in the class to react were the three marines. A marine corporal saw the grenade, stood, and turned toward the window. The Gunny grabbed him, threw him on the grenade. The Lieutenant grabbed the gunny, threw him on the corporal, and crouched. When it didn't go off, he stood, pointed to the pile, and said 'Marines are trained to protect their superiors.' When I stood and walked to my desk, they razzed me, saying it had to be a dud, or no one would have thrown it. I reminded them that the week before, a guy in Great Lakes flunked out of Electrician School and was headed to the fleet as a Bosun's Mate. He took a gun to school and shot his instructor. 'And hey, if I was wrong, I got dirty, you stayed clean. And if you were wrong, I got dirty....'

The Navy Blue Jumper is very difficult to get on and off unless you get one several sizes too big. I had one that was just a little big, then I bulked into it. (Yeah, yeah, read 'fat') On the first day of a class, someone pointed out that my three ribbons were in the wrong order. I'd pinned the bar on upside down. I wrestled my way out of the jumper, unpinned the ribbons, replace them correctly, and wrestled my way back into uniform. All in the classroom, took 5-6 minutes. Then I sat there for a second, looked at the ribbons. Slid one off each end of the ribbon bar, juggled them for a second, and slid them back on. Would have taken 5-6 seconds. When I mentioned this, of course, the whole class said, 'yeah, that's what I would have done.'

A lot of sailors prefer for awards to follow them to the next command. The advantage of this is that the first time your new CO sees you, it's to give you an award, medal or other such 'attaboy.' One of my commands forwarded my first Good Conduct Medal to a four-week Leadership course. After I was presented with it, I sat back down at my table, and mentioned, 'Well, that's 4 years of not getting caught.' A female Bosun at the table went beserk. 'SOME people worked HARD for that damn medal, keeping their nose clean, keeping OTHER people's noses clean, earning the eval points, and watching the chief's back! SOME people don't like to hear the medal referred to that way! Especially when it would have been real easy to just go along with everyone else! And SOMETIMES you really got caught, but the officer thought you were worth looking the other way and letting it slide!'
I looked at the other 3 sub sailors at the table:
'I didn't get caught.'
'I didn't get caught.' and the MS:
'Oh, I got caught, but I blackmailed my way out of it.'
She asked to change tables.

Because i was SOOOOO clean and pure as a teen, I only really have one drug story. I learned it when a bunch of missile techs took the Master At Arms course. We were there for the nightstick training, but had fun with the drug curricula and other parts.

Seems a MAA was teaching Drug Recognition to some officers. He had a cigar box with three joints in it. They passed it around, with the instructions to crack it, sniff, and then open it to see what that smell was. This was so that as the officers toured their spaces, they might recognize the smell.

Anyway, it passes around once, and when it gets back to the instructor, it only had two joints in it.

'Ha ha. Very funny. Now, I'm going to pass it around again, and this time I want everything back.' Around it goes, comes back, now it has just one joint inside.

'This isn't funny. Everyone put your head down on the desk, when the box is passed to you, open it, put it back if you have it, close it, and pass it on. Keep your head on the desk so no one will see who has it.' Comes back with two joints.

'Dammit. Everyone into the hall.'. MAA goes down the hall, comes back with a German Shepherd and his partner. 'This is a drug dog. We're gonna do this one more time, then if the dog finds a joint on you, you're going to be arrested.' One at a time they went into the class, opened the box, closed it, came out again. MAA went into the classroom....and found five joints in the box.....

When I was on shore duty in the Navy, the office I worked in did a lot of repair work to documentation. One time, my lieutenant was between me and my desk, and I asked him to pass me some paper officers. He looked at me strange. I had to explain, "O-Ganger" is navy slang for an officer. The reinforcements for binder holes were 'o' shaped, and we had taken to calling them paper O's or paper O-gangers, or paper officers. He said, 'Everywhere else I've ever been, they've been called 'paper assholes.'"

After 10 seconds of pin-drop silence, he left, blushing furiously.

Checked into Norfolk for Instructor Training. The Disbursing Clerk that checked me in instantly noted that Dam Neck had screwed up my Sub Pay and the Tender had never discovered the mistake (not a big leap to believe this). I had been underpaid for about 2 years. She said it'd be in my next check. At the time, as a 2nd class petty officer, with sub pay, I was getting about $700 a payday. During IT school, the senior chief was handing out the checks, with commentary: 'Okay, that's $1100 for me, cuz I deserve it, $1000 for the chief, who almost deserves it, $800 for the Aviation 1st, who may earn it some day, ....' Then he got to my check: 'And the bubblehead gets.....$1950! How does a 2nd class get a $1950 check?' Honestly, I answered, 'Oh, it's with sub pay....'

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